Dayton Ballet
The Dayton Ballet is a professional ballet company
Ballet company
A ballet company is a group of dancers who perform ballet, plus managerial and support staff. Most major ballet companies employ dancers on a year-round basis, except in the United States, where contracts for part of the year are the norm...

 located in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...


It was founded in 1937, making it the second oldest regional ballet company in the United States. It is also called the "Company of Premieres" as it is committed to presenting new works, including a new full-length ballet every two years. Dayton Ballet hosts a season of four performances that includes familiar traditional ballets, the classic family-friendly holiday staple The Nutcracker, as well as new and innovative works.
Dayton Ballet's mission is "…to educate, enlighten and entertain the widest audience possible…with the very best in performance, outreach and community service."

The Dayton Ballet performs in two venues, the Victoria Theatre
Victoria Theatre (Dayton, Ohio)
The Victoria Theatre is a historic 1,154-seat performing arts venue located in downtown Dayton, Ohio, USA.-History:The Victoria, one of the oldest continually operated theaters on the continent, was opened to the public as the Turner Opera House on New Year's Day, 1866, at a cost of $225,000...

 and the Schuster Center
Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center is located in Dayton, Ohio and was built in 2003 to serve as Dayton's key performance arts center. This building hosts performances from local, national, and international performing arts groups...

. The two venues host over 40 performances during the season.

Operating under the leadership of Director Dermot Burke, Dayton Ballet has an artistic, educational, technical and administrative staff of 2 full-time and several part-time employees. Mr. Burke is supported by the Dayton Ballet Association Board of Trustees, composed of the Dayton area's most dedicated business leaders and community volunteers. This active 30-member Board of Trustees hosts several fundraising activities, including the annual Nutcracker Ball. In 2005 an Associate Board was established to introduce young professionals to the art of ballet.

The Early Years (1927–1980)

Dayton Ballet had its beginning when Josephine Schwarz and her sister Hermene opened The Schwarz School of Dance in 1927. "Miss Jo" later studied ballet and danced in Chicago, in New York at the School of American Ballet, and in Europe. She danced on broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

, but was forced to return home to Dayton after receiving an injury while performing. In May 1938, Miss Jo and Miss Hermene gathered together the school's finest dancers, named the troupe "The Experimental Group for Young Dancers," and staged a performance at the Dayton Art Institute
Dayton Art Institute
The Dayton Art Institute is a museum of fine arts in Dayton, Ohio, USA. The Dayton Art Institute was rated one of the top 10 best art museums in the United States for kids. The museum also ranks in the top 3% of all art museums in North America in 3 of 4 factors...

. This was the first performance of what is now Dayton Ballet.

Miss Jo was a pioneer of the American regional ballet movement of the mid-20th century. Through years of persistence, she made Dayton a center of dance. In 1958, the company restructured as the Dayton Civic Ballet, with a board of directors, and federal tax-exempt status. In 1959, the Dayton Civic Ballet became a chartered member of the Northeast Regional Ballet Association. The Schwarz sisters trained and developed many professional dancers who went on to dance in New York, among many other places. The Schwarz sisters also organized many regional dance festivals and choreography conferences. In 1978, the company dropped the "Civic" designation and became the fully professional Dayton Ballet.


Stuart Sebastian, a student of Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, assumed directorship of the company in 1980 at the invitation of Josephine Schwarz. He had danced professionally for the Dayton Ballet and the National Ballet of Washington before assuming the role. He had also choreographed in New York,Germany and England. Sebastian led the Dayton Ballet for 10 years, in which time the company rose in stature and status. After watching the company in 1981, dance critic Walter Terry wrote in Dance Magazine:

"In just one year the Dayton Ballet has moved from first-rate amateur rank into the category of professional ballet. Of particular importance is the stature of the new choreography on view in Dayton. Good dancers are now numerous; gifted choreographers remain a rare species. Stuart Sebastian is one of this special breed."

Sebastian brought in new dancers and created the company's first full-length ballet, "the Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault or Little Briar Rose by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairytale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment, and a handsome prince...

." He choreographed over 25 new works. Of those, six were full-length ballets, including Swan Lake and Dracula. Under Sebastian, the Dayton Ballet toured more than 75 cities and took its first international tour to Jerash, Jordan. In 1988, the company appeared on national television while performing in the opening ceremonies of the Pan American Games.

Transition: 1991-1993

Following the departure of Stuart Sebastian in 1990 and his subsequent death in January 1991 after a lengthy battly with AIDS, the company entered a period of transition. James Clouser, former artistic director of the Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet
The Houston Ballet, operated by the Houston Ballet Foundation, is the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States, based in Houston, Texas. The foundation also maintains a ballet academy, the Ben Stevenson Academy, which trains more than half of the company's dancers...

, was brought in on a three year contract. It was a bumpy and tumultuous time for the company, and a time of considerable change. Clouser was the first outside, non-Daytonian director the Dayton Ballet had ever seen, a considerable break from the company's past. Many dancers and staff from the previous era left, and many new dancers and staff were hired. According to Dayton Daily News
Dayton Daily News
The Dayton Daily News is a daily newspaper published in Dayton, Ohio. It is owned by Cox Enterprises. In the 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio newspaper competition that takes place every year, was named "the best large-newspaper web site in Ohio".-History:On August 15,...

 articles written during the transition, the board of trustees was looking for change and that is why they brought in someone from the outside. After three years of "war" internally (as the Dayton Daily News stated), an executive director was brought in for the very first time in the company's history in the Fall of 1992, Dermot Burke. Despite all the change and transition of the time, the Dayton Ballet was on its way up, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Recent History: 1993–present

Dermot Burke was a star principle dancer with the Joffrey Ballet
Joffrey Ballet
The Joffrey Ballet is a dance company in Chicago, Illinois, founded in 1956. From 1995 to 2004, the company was known as The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. The company regularly performs classical ballets including Romeo & Juliet and The Nutcracker, while balancing those classics with pioneering modern...

 in New York, and had been artistic director of the American Repertory Ballet
American Repertory Ballet
The American Repertory Ballet is a New Jersey ballet company. The current director is Douglas Martin.-Artistic directors:*Douglas Martin 2010–present *Graham Lustig 1999-2010 *Septime Webre 1993-1999 *Marjorie Mussman 1992-1993 *Dermot Burke 1986-1992...

 in New Jersey for 10 years. He knew and choreographed for Sebastian and the Dayton Ballet back in 1984. That association, in addition to his track record of success leading the company in New Jersey made him the right person to move the company forward. Clouser's contract was not renewed in the Fall of 1993, and Dermot assumed the dual role of executive and artistic director of the company. Board trustees at the time were quoted in the Dayton Daily News regarding the decision, stating "the transition from Stuart Sebastian to a total outsider has proven to be very difficult." The trustees felt Dermot was the right person to move the company forward after the tumultuous change of the previous three years. Burke said he wanted to be respectful of what was in place at Dayton Ballet, and to reach out to those who had been associated with the company in the past. Many former staff and dancers from Dayton Ballet's past re-affiliated with the company at this time.

Under Dermot Burke, the company has taken on a more American flavor in the tradition of the Joffrey Ballet, embracing distinctly American dance literature, dancers and choreographers. Burke's "Nutcracker" has a local theme and is set in the early 1900s in Dayton. It pays tribute to Dayton Ballet founders Josephine and Hermene as central characters as well as Virginia Kettering, a generous supporter of the Dayton Ballet. There was also a shift to a "repertory company with lots of choreographic voices" as Burke stated. This repertory includes and has held onto the work of Sebastian and the company's past, while at the same time including the work of outside choreographers.


The dancers of the Dayton Ballet, as of January 2011:

  • Case Bodamer
  • Erika Cole
  • Grant Dettling
  • Will Hoppe

  • Daniel Karasik
  • Katie Keith
  • Justin Michael Koertgen

  • Erica Lehman-Downey
  • Halliet Slack
  • Annalise Woller

  • Jessie Cooper (apprentice)
  • Christian Delery (apprentice)
  • Marcia Hetrick (trainee)
  • Abby Phillips (trainee)
  • Gabrielle Sharp (trainee)

Dayton Ballet School

The company's dependent dance school, Dayton Ballet School, is the oldest dance school in Dayton and one of the oldest in the US. It is the only school in the Miami Valley
Miami Valley
The Miami Valley, broadly, refers to the land area surrounding the Great Miami River in southwest Ohio, USA, and also includes the Little Miami, Mad, and Stillwater rivers as well...

 that is linked to a professional dance company. The mission of the Dayton Ballet School is " to provide the very finest dance training to any child or adult who seeks to experience the wonder and the fun of dance."

The goal of the School is to serve the community by not only strengthening legs and arms, but also by introducing accomplishments and discipline to the spirit of all participants.

  • Aaron Berenson, dancer with Dayton Ballet.
  • Geraldine Blunden, former director of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.
  • Rachel Carmazzi, dancer with Dayton Ballet.
  • Rebecca Carmazzi, dancer with Dayton Ballet, BalletMet, and now the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
  • Dan Duell, dancer with the New York City Ballet
    New York City Ballet
    New York City Ballet is a ballet company founded in 1948 by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Leon Barzin was the company's first music director. Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are considered the founding choreographers of the company...

     and artistic director of Ballet Chicago.
  • Joseph Duell, dancer with the New York City Ballet
    New York City Ballet
    New York City Ballet is a ballet company founded in 1948 by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Leon Barzin was the company's first music director. Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are considered the founding choreographers of the company...

  • Robert Eberly III, dancer with Dayton Ballet, Ballet West
    Ballet West
    Ballet West, Salt Lake City, Utah was founded in 1963 by Glenn Walker Wallace, who served as its first president. It was called the Utah Civic Ballet company. Willam F...

    , and Boston Ballet
    Boston Ballet
    Boston Ballet, founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams, was the first professional repertory ballet company in New England. Boston Ballet’s national and international reputation developed under the leadership of Artistic Directors Violette Verdy , Bruce Marks , and Anna-Marie Holmes...

  • Penny Freeh, choreographer for the James Sewell Ballet
    James Sewell Ballet
    The James Sewell Ballet is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based ballet company of eight dancers founded in 1990 by James Sewell and Sally Rousse.-History:James Sewell Ballet was founded in 1990 by James Sewell and Sally Rousse in New York City...

  • Jeff Gribler, dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet
    Pennsylvania Ballet
    Founded in 1963 by Balanchine student and protégée Barbara Weisberger, Pennsylvania Ballet is one of the leading ballet companies in the United States. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the company’s annual local season features six programs of classic favorites and new works, including the...

  • Carol Jean Heller, Dayton Ballet School Director and dancer with Ballet Repertory in New York.
  • Peter Means, dancer with Milwaukee Ballet
    Milwaukee Ballet
    The Milwaukee Ballet is a professional ballet company located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. It was founded in 1969 by Roberta Boorse and held its first performance on April 24, 1970. It is currently ranked among the top twelve ballet companies in the United States...

    , Washington Ballet
    Washington Ballet
    The Washington Ballet is an ensemble of professional athletic classical ballet dancers. It was founded in 1976 by American ballet pioneer Mary Day, and has been under the artistic directorship of Septime Webre since 1999.-The Mary Day years :...

     and Ballet Met.
  • Peter LeBreton Merz, dancer with Louisville Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet, now Assistant Professor of Dance and Head of Ballet at Point Park University (Pittsburgh).
  • Cheryl Mrozowski, director of the Dance Company at Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
    Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
    Wheaton College is a four-year, private liberal arts college with an approximate student body of 1,550. Wheaton's residential campus is located in Norton, Massachusetts, between Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1834 as a female seminary, it is one of the oldest...

  • Bonnie Pickard, dancer with Suzanne Farrell Ballet
    Suzanne Farrell Ballet
    The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is a ballet company housed at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., and founded in 2000 by Suzanne Farrell, one of George Balanchine's most celebrated ballerinas, and a former New York City Ballet principal dancer. Today, the ballet is a full-fledged company produced by...

     and North Carolina Dance Theatre.
  • Jennifer Schildknecht, dancer with Dayton Ballet and Ballet West
    Ballet West
    Ballet West, Salt Lake City, Utah was founded in 1963 by Glenn Walker Wallace, who served as its first president. It was called the Utah Civic Ballet company. Willam F...

  • Stuart Sebastian, former Dayton Ballet Artistic Director and dancer with National Ballet of Washington.
  • Dustin Shane, dancer with San Francisco Ballet
    San Francisco Ballet
    The San Francisco Ballet is a ballet company, founded in 1933 as the San Francisco Opera Ballet. The company is currently based in the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, under the direction of Helgi Tomasson. SFB is the first professional ballet company in the United States...

  • Gabrielle Sharp, dancer with the Dayton Ballet.
  • Jennifer Sydor, dancer with Kim Robards Dance.
  • Jonothan Tabbert, dancer with the Charleston Ballet.
  • Donna Wood, dancer with Alvin Ailey
    Alvin Ailey
    Alvin Ailey, Jr. was an American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th century concert dance...

  • Rebecca Wright
    Rebecca Wright
    Rebecca Wright, , was a ballerina, teacher, choreographer and ballet school director....

    , dancer with American Ballet Theatre
    American Ballet Theatre
    American Ballet Theatre , based in New York City, was one of the foremost ballet companies of the 20th century. It continues as a leading dance company in the world today...

    , on Broadway in Merlin, and with the Joffrey Ballet.

External links

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